St. Paul, MN – On Sunday, March 19, 2017, the family of Cordale Handy held a vigil near the site of the last moments of his life. Cordale was shot dead by St. Paul police officers Mikko Norman and Nathaniel Younce on Wednesday morning, March 15, 2017, as they were responding to a domestic disturbance call.
The series of events which ended Cordale’s life are not entirely known to the public yet. What is known, is that Cordale was going through some sort of crisis, he had a gun that he had just shot in his apartment multiple times, St. Paul police responded to a 911 call, and moments later, Cordale was dead.
Recording of the police radio dispatches from the morning of the shooting are available below. The dispatcher called for police response to the area of 6th St. and Sissen St. in East Saint Paul and said a caller stated a female “is screaming for help and it sounds physical.”
Within moments after arriving to the scene, the police gunned Cordale down. Listen to the police radio dispatches below [Content Advisory]:
The dispatcher says another call was taken, possibly from the friend, or partner, of Cordale, and the dispatcher said that the caller’s “boyfriend went to the hospital for some back pain and they gave him some pain meds, and now he’s acting violent and threatening to kick her out.”
A bit before the one minute mark of the dispatch clip, amidst screams in the background, a police officer on the scene can be heard saying “we’ve got one, headed north towards 7th St., he has a gun possibly, he has a dog with him.”
Seconds later, that same officer radio’s in that “he’s [Cordale] on 7th and Sinnen right now laying on the ground,” and then another broadcast from the officer comes in, as he frantically screams, “Shots fired!” Cordale Handy was killed while laying down on the corner of 7th St. and Sinnen St.
A woman can be heard still screaming in the background when the officers on the scene declare “Code four for medics” to the dispatch. Before the dispatch is over, officers from the scene radio in,
“suspect’s in custody, [inaubile] on scene here, everything’s good.” – Police officer radio’s in after shooting Cordale Handy
Last year, the police in Minnesota killed at least thirteen people, its highest number on record. Cordale was at least the seventeenth person killed by the hands of the St. Paul police force since 2008, making them the deadliest police force in the state of Minnesota.
Media reports surrounding this event have focused on the police’s version of a domestic call involving violence and a male with a gun. According to the MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS), Handy had pointed a gun at officers twice before they shot him dead. DPS said in a statement, “Two officers fired their weapons, striking Handy. Officers located a handgun next to Handy. The handgun was kicked away by officers to secure the scene and recovered several feet away.”
Meanwhile, witnesses point to a situation of a mental health crisis mishandled and say that Cordale dropped his gun outside of the apartment building before running nearly a block away, lying down on the pavement and getting shot.
A friend of Cordale, and his girlfriend, told Pioneer Press that she was simply trying to get the gun away from him so he would not endanger himself.
“When I walked into the hallway, he had the gun in his hand, his eyes were glossed over, and he was not coherent … It was like he thought someone was trying to kill him; that’s why I think he was maybe hallucinating.” – Cordale’s friend
The friend stated that Cordale had emptied the gun into his apartment wall (BCA found spent shell casings in his apartment) and that she told the responding officers that the gun was unloaded. She said as the police proceeded after him, “I lost my voice screaming that the gun was unloaded and saying, ‘Don’t hurt him, don’t hurt him.’” Officers then shot Cordale while he was laying on the ground.
Calls for police intervention while people are going through mental health crises frequently end in fatalities across the United States. Officers are going through Crisis Intervention Trainings (CIT) to deal with calls like this, but the family of Cordale says that is not enough, and that officers need to undergo proper psychological screening during the hiring process.
Cordale had recently moved to St. Paul from Waukegan, Illinois, where he had some legal troubles. Cordale’s family came from hours away in Lake County, Illinois to take part in a vigil of remembrance.
Unicorn Riot was live for this vigil and we spoke to the mother of Cordale, Kim Handy-Jones.
“Cordale was a person that loved to laugh, charismatic, with an infectious smile that would just brighten up a room … he loved his family … he would always say, ‘we got to love each other while we’re here’, and the last time I saw my son, that’s exactly what he said.” – Kim, Cordale’s Mother
Cordale’s mother, Kim, said that she last saw him in the beginning of March, and some of the last words he told her were:
“Ma, Ja’Juan, and Whitney, we gotta love each other while we’re here, that’s what it’s all about, loving one another … that’s what I taught him. So it’s always a good thing when you hear your kids say things to you that you’ve instilled in them.” – Kim, Cordale’s Mother
“they took him. They used unnecessary force. Two cops shot him down … they didn’t even try to de-escalate the situation … I hear all these conflicting stories, but the only thing that’s not conflicting that I hear, that would remain that same, is that my child was sitting down on the ground, wasn’t representing harm to anyone, or danger to anyone.” – Kim, Cordale’s Mother
Kim said that the St. Paul Police have yet to contact her about her son’s death and that she was upset at the stories being told by the authorities: “and then to sit there and lie and say it was domestic battery – how do you know what it is? – you killed him before you could find out what it was.”
Kim said she wants “justice … that they [the officers] be prosecuted and brought to justice.”
“They cant hurt him no more thats for sure. His peace is with God. They better try to make they peace with him.” – Kim, Cordale’s Mother
Activists from Lake County Illinois Black Lives Matter, Cordale’s family and friends, Black Lives Matter St. Paul, and others, spoke during the vigil. They focused on the perpetual cycle of police murdering Black bodies, remembered the life of Cordale Handy, and showed solidarity with each other in the created healing space.
Watch the livestreams of the vigil below:
“didn’t I tell you Niko, I told you, like last summer, that we’ll be right back here again, because this ain’t no f*ckin re-run man. This a new episode of this bullsh*t that the police keep pulling all the time. And they keep pulling that bullsh*t and expect us to shut up.” – John Thompson
Thompson also spoke about how he saw connections between the KKK, the police, and the Minnesota House of Representatives, and said of the police killing of Cordale, “this is how they kick the summer season off man, and I’m telling you, it’s gonna keep on happening ’til we start holding their ass accountable.”
We also spoke with local citizen journalist King Demetrius Pendleton about police killings, the narrative that is told about them through the press, and the importance of independent media:
A few hours after Cordale was murdered by officers Mikko Norman and Nathaniel Younce, of the St. Paul Police Department, St. Paul’s Police Chief, Todd Axtel, made a Facebook post, parts of which read:
Early this morning, three of our officers—your officers—were involved in a shooting where Seventh and Sinnen Streets meet on the East Side.
Thankfully, the officers were not physically harmed. Sadly, a man lost his life, a family is missing a loved one, and the lives of the officers were forever changed.
State law prevents me from discussing specifics about this incident, but I do want you all to know that no one at the Saint Paul Police Department takes pleasure in having to use deadly force. Officers do not choose situations such as the one that occurred this morning, the situations choose the officers.
Most people can only imagine what it is like to be a police officer sent to help a person in the middle of the night. Responding to domestic abuse calls is one of the most dangerous things we ask of our officers. What they experience and are exposed to affects them. And when guns are involved, the stakes are even higher.
What happened this morning is difficult for everyone who cares about Saint Paul. The only solace I can take from the situation is that our officers—your officers—were not physically injured and that people took the time to call and get help for a person in need.
More information about the incident will be released by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension as they proceed with the investigation. In the meantime, I ask that you keep all who were involved in your thoughts and prayers.” – St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtel
Black Lives Matter Saint Paul also released a statement:
“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 15th. 2017
RE: The killing of Cordale Handy
In the early hours of Wednesday, March 15th, 2017, Saint Paul Police Department officers responded to a call on the 700 block of 6th Ave. They claim to have encountered Cordale Handy at 7th Ave and Sinnen St. Where they fired at him, striking him and ultimately killing him. They are framing this as a “domestic assault” response call. That is a lie.
We know that Mr. Handy was experiencing a medical emergency and that his girlfriend was trying to help calm him down. Police were well aware that he had been struggling. In the dispatch audio, they mention the possibility of a gun. However, we have learned that Cordale was unarmed when he was gunned down by police.
As usual, the police narrative has been blasted out on all our local media outlets as an incident of domestic violence. We distrusted the initial narrative and were correct in doing so. The first thing that law enforcement officials will do when they kill someone is try to justify it. They will use character defamation to try to perpetuate the idea that they’re the “good guys” just out chasing “bad guys” and to manufacture public consent for the murder of a citizen at the hands of police.
This should have been a welfare check. That’s what real “good guys” would’ve done. Cordale Handy needed help. But he didn’t get help. The Saint Paul Police Department continues to be the deadliest force in the state of MN and Black people, other POCs and those suffering through episodic attacks and/or medical crises continue to be slain at disproportionate rates.
Since the police narrative is different than the one we know to be true, and in the name of transparency, we demand the immediate release of any available video and an independent investigation.
This killing was unjustified. Black Lives Matter Saint Paul mourns the loss of Cordale Handy. We offer our love, strength and services to his family and loved ones during this incredibly difficult time. We love you and we are with you.” – Black Lives Matter St. Paul
UPDATE: Three days after the vigil – Protesters Disrupt City Council & Gain Community Meeting with St. Paul Officials
UPDATE: April 13 – Cordale Handy: Federal Lawsuit & Community Meeting w St. Paul Mayor & Chief
Unicorn Riot Coverage Surrounding Cordale Handy:
- Vigil for Cordale Handy, Another Victim of SPPD (March 20, 2017)
- Protesters Disrupt City Council & Gain Community Meeting with St. Paul Officials (March 24, 2017)
- Cordale Handy: Federal Lawsuit & Community Meeting w St. Paul Mayor & Chief (April 13, 2017)
- Remembering Cordale Handy, One Year Later (March 17, 2018)
- Families of Police Victims Create Community Amidst Tragedy (March 22, 2018)
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